Leesburg electric customers frustrated with new smart meter program

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LEESBURG, Fla. —

Some Leesburg electric customers are losing patience with the city's new smart meter program.

Ever since the smart meters were installed across the city during the summer of 2012, customers have waited for their bill to go down, but instead they went up. City leaders said they are working to get the system working properly.

"We don't need to wait to save money by paying more money now," customer Yvonne Brucke said.

The city raised the rates by 5 percent last summer, partly to pay for the smart grid energy system, which includes annual fees to General Electric. But GE hasn't been able to get the smart grid system to work yet because of problems with the computer programs.

"Knowing what we know today, would we have changed the contract that we signed two or three years ago? Sure," Leesburg City Commissioner David Knowles said.

Knowles did vote to extend the city's contract with GE five more years, now running through 2026. But in return, the company will reduce its fees by $2 million. He admits the new program did not go as planned, but hopes the smart grid will be running in a few months and customers will be able to reduce their power usage.

"It's not going to make electricity free or cheap, but it will make it more affordable for our customers," Knowles said